Monster Crown is a creature collector coming to Steam Early Access on July 30, but I was fortunate to be given an early preview of the closed beta to gather some impressions. From now until the end of Nintendo, creature collectors will be compared to Pokémon. So, let’s get that out of the way up front; Monster Crown feels like a more mature version of Pokémon.
Everything is a little darker and more grown-up. The Monsters aren’t cute. Some are even fairly gruesome looking. Within my first hour of playing, a man was eaten by sea Monsters (he wasn’t very nice), a giant Monster wiped out my whole team, and I met a guy and his snake Monster that were almost certainly high out of their minds. Like I said, more mature.
Good morning, sleepyhead
Much like every other creature collector, you begin your journey waking up and working out who you are. Right from the start, Monster Crown lets you decide if you want to be an upstanding citizen or a conniving manipulator. Naturally, I took on the role of honorable tryhard.
You choose your name, a look, and even your pronouns – not just he or she, either. After that, your dad teaches you the basics of Monster battling and then you’re faced with the toughest challenge in every creature collector: choosing your starter.
In Monster Crown, you have a choice between five Monsters – one for each of the game’s types. The game recommended I take Canite. As much as I wanted to rebel and take something more interesting, like Hooclaw, Canite just looked the coolest. I immediately renamed it, by mistake, and couldn’t cancel the command, which is annoying. So, I restarted. It’s a closed beta though, so I expected to encounter some bugs.
After that, your dad declares you’re showing talent as a tamer and gives you your first quest. After eight years of owning one monster, he’s only managed to get it to level six. So, maybe he’s not the best judge of potential, but off you go.
You later discover that your old dad does know a thing or two about Monster taming. And you know nothing about the history of the island now ruled by three kings. As you work to uncover these pieces of the story, Monster Crown starts to come into its own.
I’m not even close to finishing the story. But the more I play, the more I realize I’ve barely scratched the surface. I find that very exciting. I love a story that begins small and expands to encompass kingdom defining deeds.
A world full of monsters
The world of Monster Crown is a complex one. And, despite what they’re name implies, Monsters aren’t bad, nor are they slaves to their tamers. The relationship between human and Monster is mutually beneficial. The Monster protects you and you help it become powerful — or some version of this bargain.
And that’s how you catch Monsters in the game, through Pacts. They’re not imprisoned in a ball. Instead, you offer a contract, and the Monster decides if it wants to join you. If you’re strong enough, they can’t really decline your offer. But this method of acquisition helps build the image of a world where Monsters and humans must work together to coexist.
Not long into my journey, I discovered the real monster in the game – a human girl who will do anything for more power. She destroyed my team of fledgling Monsters, raged at the polite young man helping me out, and ordered her Monster to smack us around a bit. She didn’t make a good first impression. But she did make me want to train more powerful Monsters.
How to tame your Monster
The difficulty of Monster Crown ramps up quickly. I had to spend some time leveling my Monsters before I could tackle the bad guys in the first cave. Surprisingly, I didn’t find it annoying. I used the time to wrap my head around the type matchups and took a closer look at the stats of my Monsters. Turns out one of my Monsters had very low attack power, which explains why it kept underperforming in battles.
The combat system has some compelling intricacies to it. When you swap, you power up your next Monster’s attack and add an effect to it. This combined with the 1.5x effectiveness or 0.5x resistance bonus against specific types will have you juggling monsters to try and outthink and overpower your opponents.
Each Monster type is effective against one type and weak to another type. I did find that the type matchups are a lot less intuitive than in Pokémon. It was a struggle until I was given the handy page below to use as a reference. I ended up taking a screenshot of it and having it always open on my second screen. But you’ll get the hang of it eventually.
Down the Monster hole
One of my favorite things in Monster Crown is the breeding. You combine any two Monsters (Monster genetics are simple like that), a primary and a secondary and the breeder mashes them together to produce a child.
Apparently, there are over 1,000 combinations, which is insane. And very exciting. I could (and probably will) spend hours on breeding new Monsters. I love the thrill of breeding two random Monsters and seeing what pops out. It’s like a lucky packet. Plus, whenever you breed a new Monster, you get to name it. This helps with the impression that every Monster you create is entirely new.
As with all creature collectors, encountering and catching new Monsters is a large part of the excitement. I got giddy whenever I caught a glimpse of a Monster running around that I hadn’t seen before, and immediately set off to bargain with it. And there are some cool looking Monsters in Monster Crown. I got incredibly lucky and caught Monster Crown’s version of a shiny — there’s a one in 1,000 chance of encountering one of these. I lost my mind when I saw this Monster running around:
One thing that surprised me was the inclusion of an online battle feature. You’ll be able to battle other players using the team of Monsters you bred and trained. With the vast amount of customization available to breeding Monsters, I think this feature could make for some exciting content. Particularly if the developer, Studio Aurum, hosts some events of its own.
I’m not done with Monster Crown. I played enough to write a preview, but I’m going back for more when it releases into Early Access. I want to see where the story leads and get my hands on some of those epic looking monsters. And I want to see how many awesome variations I can breed.
However, there are a few things I’m hoping Studio Aurum improves on between the closed beta and early access. I wish the Monsters would have an animation when they decline or agree to a Pact. Sign with their paw/hoof/claw/or whatever appendage. Something to seal the deal. The flight system also needs to be made a little more precise. I sometimes struggled to select the travel destination.
But the thing that I got frustrated with the most was when I encountered a Monster far above my power level (by mistake or in the story) and it would slowly wipe my team out. Watching your team slowly die with no hope of winning and no way to skip the mauling is annoying.
In the grand scheme on things, these are small issues that didn’t put me off. And shouldn’t deter you either. If you enjoyed Pokémon when you were younger, but you find you’ve outgrown it, Monster Crown might be the creature collector you’re looking for.